Chapter 5: Perceptions
How we hide sometimes
so much behind outward things –
let me look and see
the you that is really there,
see my heart beating just for you.
“You look . . . different,” InuYasha said, looking at Kagome as she knelt next to him. The blue and white pattern of the wrap skirt was damp around her knees from where she had been working on the floor. He reached out and traced a piece of white flower blossom in the wrap skirt design.
“Sango gave me the dress,” Kagome said, chewing her lip, and dropping her eyes, suddenly self-conscious. She tucked a piece of hair that had escaped back under the scarf that was wrapped bandana-fashion around her head. “Is it all right?”
He smiled, leaning over until his forehead touched hers. “Yeah. You look nice, like you belong here.”
“Good,” she replied. “That’s the way I want it always to be. I want to look like I belong here with you, because I do.”
InuYasha slid an arm around her waist and cupped her cheek with his other hand. His right ear twitched as his eyes, intense and warm, searched hers. He struggled to say something. “Damn it, woman. I don’t have the words.”
He kissed her, gently, tenderly, lips lightly dancing over hers, then coming up for air, he stroked her cheek with his thumb. “I don’t know if I ever will have the words. How can I tell you what it means to me that you’re here? That you want to be here? That you gave up so much.”
Kagome kissed him back. “I didn’t lose anything. I came back to the place I’m supposed to be.”
InuYasha smiled, but sighed. “I don’t know anything about being a...a husband. I barely know how to be a friend. I’m walking around in a daze today because everything’s changed so fast. If I act stupid or don’t say the right thing, it doesn’t mean anything.”
“I know, InuYasha.” She smiled. “But now I need to finish with the floor. Sango said that she would bring dinner over here tonight.”
She got up and moved back to her mop bucket. InuYasha watched her at work, and for some reason felt guilty that she should be doing that type of work for his house, and yet he couldn’t deny she seemed perfectly content. She began humming, then singing softly the same song as she had been singing earlier.
“Why does the crow caw
flying over the mountain,
hear her calling,” she sang.
Turning away so as not to watch her, he stared down at his hands, rough and clawed, and thought about the crow youkai that led to the jewel being shattered and how it made sure that his life would be forever changed. Then he remembered what he had been doing before he saw her mopping. “Kaede sent some things over. I left them by the door.”
Kagome sat up, and dropped her rag into the bucket, then wiped her forehead. “Thank you, InuYasha. I was talking to Kaede before you came into breakfast this morning. She told me she wanted to give me some things,” she said. “ She also told me she wants me to train with her to be a miko. I told her I would think about it.”
“What?” InuYasha said, his voice rising some as he turned back to face Kagome. She met his eyes calmly, smiling gently.
“Kaede told me she wanted me to train to take over for her. I think she’s worried that when she’s gone, the village won’t have a healer anymore.” She rubbed her nose with the back of her wrist and tried to blow an errant hair out of her face. “ I know she knows they could always get a young woman to dance the kagura for the rituals, but not someone with spiritual powers to protect people. She’s not getting any younger, InuYasha.” Kagome rinsed her rag, and turned back to the floor.
Suddenly a feather of cold touched his heart. “But . . . but can you do that?” he asked, his ears drooping. “Miko aren’t wives. They’re supposed to give themselves to the Kami and their work totally. Does she know about us?”
She saw the worry in his eyes and sighed.“Yes. Yes, she does, InuYasha. I made sure of that.” She stood up and stretched. “There, that’s got it for the floor.” Looking over the floor, gleaming in places where beams of late afternoon light touched the wetter spots, she dropped the rag back in the bucket then picked it up and walked back over to where InuYasha was sitting. He looked up at her with troubled eyes, like a reprimanded puppy. She sat down on the edge of the platform next to him and let her feet dangle, brushing on the packed dirt below.
“InuYasha,” Kagome said, leaning on his shoulder. “I didn’t come back across time to be a miko. I came back because I wanted to be with you.” His arm slipped around her, and she nuzzled closer. “I promise you I will never do anything that would interfere with that. I could have been a miko staying at home. I could have even been a priest. Women were beginning to be allowed to be priests before I came back.” She looked up at him, looking peaceful but serious. “But I think I would like to work with Kaede.”
“But how can you do that and be with me?” he asked. He gently cupped her cheeks in his hands. “I just found you again. I don’t think I could let you go even for a good cause.”
Leaning forward, she kissed him lightly on the lips. “How can Miroku be a monk and be married to Sango and eat fish and meat?” she replied. “We can just do it. I would like to be a healer. I know what it’s like to be connected to a shrine, how the rhythm of the seasons works with the Kami. I would hate for this village to be without someone to help once Kaede can’t manage the work herself.”
“They’ll call you a dark miko,” he said. His eyes narrowed.
“Who, the villagers?” she said, with a soft laugh. “I doubt they’ll tell the woman who treats their illnesses and delivers their babies that she’s evil.”
InuYasha sighed. “I don’t know. Strangers. The Daimyo down in Odawara. People who’ll want to give you grief.” He brushed his lips lightly over her cheek. “I don’t want anybody making you sad or hurting you. It’s going to be hard enough to explain you being with me.”
“Please, InuYasha. Kaede’s been so good to us. Let me try to give something back,” Kagome said, her dark eyes searching his face.
“You’re asking me?” he said, surprised at her reaction.
“Of course,” she said. She picked up one of his hands and placed it over her heart. “I came here to be with you. You told me I was your wife. You have a say-so in this.”
“Feh. I’ve never been able to stop you doing anything you wanted,” he replied. “But she has been good to me, even after you left. If you want to, you can try it.”
She smiled a brilliant smile for him. “Good. Now maybe we want to start putting some of the stuff back in the house. It won’t be too much longer until Sango and Miroku show up.”
“Once there was a man who was really very simple, so his neighbors called him Kashikoi-sama,” said Kagome. “For some reason, he began to believe he was as smart as his nickname of Wise One and began talking and giving his opinions about everything like he really knew what he was talking about.”
The little house seemed crowded with the gathered friends. Dinner of Sango’s soup was over, and the pot and dishes were stacked near the entryway. InuYasha set near the fire pit, poking at the pine wood he had added for extra light. He looked up at Kagome’s description, giving a wicked smirk to Miroku.
“It’s lucky that some of us actually do know what we’re talking about, isn’t it, Sango my beloved,” Miroku said, picking up a wiggling Noriko and securing her in his lap.
“One day, he and some friends had come together for a celebration. While they were drinking sake and eating, somehow or other, the talk got around to Kitsune,” Kagome continued. Shippou, sitting next to Kagome, stuck out his tongue at InuYasha. She took the hanyou’s hand in hers before he could bop him.
Yusuko took that moment to begin toddling towards the young Kitsune, snagged at the last moment by Sango. “Shippou!” she cried, holding her arms out to him. Shippou jumped on InuYasha’s shoulder.
“You like living dangerously, don’t you?” InuYasha growled, but softly.
“Better you than her,” Shippou said, holding his tail defensively.
Kagome shot daggers at both of them, but continued her story. “Now Kashikoi had a lot of sake to drink. After hearing several of the men talk about how various people had been fooled or frightened by Kitsune, he declared that only the foolish or easily led could ever let a fox misguide them. Wise and intelligent people like himself could never be so tricked. In fact, he declared, most people who thought they had been fooled by a Kitsune probably just scared themselves.
“His friend Takeo tried to talk sense to him. ‘You shouldn’t talk that way!’ he said. ‘We know of at least thirty men who were tricked in the Black Pine moor alone. Are you saying they all were men who fooled themselves or were weak, or someone human tricked them?’
“‘Yes,’ Kashikoi told him. ‘That’s exactly what I’m saying. And to prove it, I’ll go out there tonight!’
“‘Well, let’s make it worth your while. You come back with no fox tale to tell us, and we’ll buy you five jugs of sake. But if anything happens, you have to do the same for us,’ Takeo said. Their friends roundly agreed. Soon all six of them stood up, and with much loud noise and rude singing, they got torches and escorted their friend out into the night and toward the Black Pine moor.”
“And I suppose you’re thinking about pranks you would pull on him right now, aren’t you, brat?” InuYasha said.
“I was thinking what the guys at the last youjutsu exam would do to him, actually,” Shippou said. He jumped off InuYasha’s shoulder and landed in the center of the group. “First, they’d – ”
“Shippou-chan,” said Kagome, looking at the kit. “Can I keep telling the story?”
“Oh,” he said, sitting down. “I’m sorry.”
“Anyway,” Kagome said, “Kashikoi’s friends took him to the moor, and Takeo announced loudly, ‘Hey, Kitsune-samas, we have someone who doesn’t believe in you here. We have five jugs of sake that say you’ll show him what you can do. Don’t let us down!’ And laughing, they all walked off.”
“Some friends,” Sango muttered. The baby Nao began to fuss and she let Yusuko loose to take care of him, putting him over her shoulder.
“The first thing Kashikoi noticed once his friends’ drunken voices were out of hearing was a rustle in a bamboo stand in front of him. Looking carefully, he saw a fox dart into the bamboo, and he went to investigate. Passing beyond the bamboo, he saw the wife of the village headman. ‘Why, hello, Kashikoi-sama! How unexpected to see you out here tonight. I am just going to go visit my father in the village. Will you walk with me?’
“Suddenly, Kashikoi became suspicious that a fox was trying to deceive him. He knew that there was no way the village headman would let his wife walk between villages after dark. While agreeing to walk with her, he began to look for telltale signs of fox magic, like the tip of a tail showing at the bottom of her kosode, or if her clothing seemed to glow in the dark, but for the life of him, he saw nothing. Yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
“They eventually reached the cottage of her family, but just as her father and mother came out to greet her, he took a knife out of his belt and said, ‘Stand back! I know this girl is not your daughter, but a fox out to trick us all!’ While her parents watched in horror and tried to pull him away, he tortured her trying to get her to reveal her true form, and when that didn’t work, he used the flame from his lantern to set her dress on fire. ‘Mother! Father!’ she cried, but there was nothing they could do, and she died.”
Just as Kagome finished that passage, Yusuko, finally realizing she was free of her mother’s hand, crawled over to pull Shippou’s tail, and he shrieked.
“Yusuko, leave Shippou-kun alone!” Sango ordered.
Shippou jumped on Miroku’s shoulder.
“Got caught up in the story, eh?” Miroku said.
Shippou crossed his arms. “Feh,” he said in InuYasha style. “You need to teach Yusuko that my tail ain’t a toy.”
“But it’s so fun to watch, Shippou-kun,” Sango commented.
Kagome laughed. “You should have seen the look on your face, Shippou-chan!”
“Well, what happens next?” InuYasha said.
She nudged him with her elbow. “Let me see . . . Someone got a big stick and hit Kashikoi over the head and he fell unconscious. When he awoke, he was tied up, and a fierce looking samurai was standing over him.
“‘You must die for your murder!’ said the samurai. “I am going off to tell my master and also her husband what has happened. Expect the worst!’
“‘But I could have sworn she was a fox!’ he cried. ‘I saw the fox. Why would the headman let his wife wander around after nightfall?’
“‘Our poor daughter! Whatever shall we tell her husband?’ cried the parents.
“A Buddhist priest came by, attended by a young boy and a servant. Hearing all the noise, he asked what the problem was. A servant led him in to where the parents and the official were, and he heard their tale of woe. He turned to the unfortunate man. ‘Why Kashikoi, is that you?’ he asked.
“‘Yes, Dono, it is I. I thought I saw a fox turn into this poor woman and I killed her. But I really thought it was a fox out to trick me! If you can do something to save my life, I would do anything.’
“‘Well then, let me talk with the family,’ the priest said, then took the others away into the back and had a conference. Kashikoi continued to weep and tremble where he was, not daring yet to hope. After a few minutes, the priest came back to him.
“‘Well, Kashikoi, you have one chance,’ said the priest. ‘You can shave your head and become my disciple right now, or the Samurai-sama will take you to be tried and executed.’
“‘Yes, do it right now,’ said the girl’s father. ‘He was trying to protect us, even though it was an evil fate.’
“‘ Do you agree?’ said the priest.
“The speechless man nodded his head. The priest untied him, had him kneel in a prayerful attitude, and began to shave his head while he chanted. After the ceremony was done, Kashikoi stood up and bowed deeply to the priest. At that moment, he heard a loud burst of laughter and the sun broke over the horizon. When he stood up, he was alone. Reaching up to the top of his head, though, he knew it wasn’t a sake dream, because he had no hair. The foxes had fooled him after all.”
“Yes!” said Shippou. “That’s the way top ranked Kitsune do things! That would have gotten great marks on the exam.”
“Hmm,” said Miroku. “So what became of Kashikoi?”
“They say he went back to his friends,” said Kagome. “He covered his head with a handkerchief, and told them the tale of what happened, and at the right moment, revealed what the foxes had done. Although his friends laughed at him, he paid his debt without complaining. Afterwards it is said he became a monk of great holiness who went out of his way to be compassionate to those who thought they had all the answers, but didn’t. And he always remembered to do acts of kindness to the foxes who put him on the right path. Or so my grandfather told me.”
“Hn,” InuYasha said. “You would think he’d be mad at them, instead.”
“Well, many are the paths that lead to enlightenment, my friend, “ Miroku said, looking thoughtful. He glanced down at the sleeping child in his arms, looked at Sango, and gave her a little nod. “I think, though, it’s time that we leave you two alone and put our children to bed. Thank you for the story, Kagome-sama.”
“Can I stay here tonight?” Shippou asked. InuYasha’s eyes narrowed, his hand reaching out to clasp Kagome’s.
“Remember what we talked about this afternoon, Shippou?” Sango said.
The fox kit sighed. “I forgot.” He jumped off of Miroku’s shoulders and crawled into Kagome’s lap. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Kagome.”
She gave the kit a wry smile then ruffled his hair. “Sure thing, Shippou-chan.”
Sango stood up, and handed off the sleeping Yusuko to Miroku. “If you come over early enough, I’ll teach you how I make breakfast.”
Kagome smiled, getting up herself. “That would be good. I really don’t know how to cook well in a fire pit. We did it a different way at my mother’s house.”
Bidding her friends goodbye, she let down the mat door and tied it shut. As she turned around, she watched InuYasha sitting by the fire pit. His hands were stuffed in his sleeves and he was staring into the fire, a far away look on his face. Suddenly the little room seemed very large and quiet.
“I think I’m tired,” she said. InuYasha’s ear twitched in her direction, and he nodded slightly, but didn’t say anything.
Kagome quietly went to the back of the hut and got out their bedding then laid it out. She took off her wrap skirt and laid it out on the clothing chest she had put against the back wall, then dragged the comb that Sango had given her through her hair. During all of this, InuYasha remained quiet. When she was finished, she returned next to her hanyou. He looked up at her, his eyes shimmering with some emotion she wasn’t quite sure of as she stood there. Kagome chewed her bottom lip, uncertain of what to say, but sat down next to him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“You’re not thinking about the story I told. I can tell,” she said. She twirled a lock of his hair around one of her fingers.
“Keh,” he said, uncrossing his arms and wrapping one arm around her waist. “Already knew what Kitsune were like.” After a moment, he rested his head on top of hers.
“So what are you thinking about?” she asked.
“Why,” he said, very softly.
“Why what, InuYasha?” she said, letting her hand rest lightly on his thigh.
“Why you came back.” His hand holding her waist began to gently stroke her side. She shivered a little in a pleasant way at the touch.
“I came back because I wanted to be with you,” she replied.
“But you had so much – people who loved you, friends, so many things I will never be able to give you.” His voice quavered a bit. She knew that voice - the voice of his insecurity and self-doubt.
Kagome sat up, to meet his eyes. “But it was a world without InuYasha.” She placed her hand over the center of InuYasha’s chest. “The longer I stayed, the more I knew my heart was here.”
He looked down at her hand, and covered her hand with his. “All I wanted for you was for you to be happy and safe. I thought I was doing the right thing leaving you with your family. They loved you and needed you. ”
“I needed them then, I think,” she said. “But I need you now.”
He swallowed hard, and rested his forehead on hers, interlaced his fingers in her hand. “I promise,” he said “I’ll never forget what you gave up to be with me. That you wanted to be with me. I will always stand by you.”
Kagome kissed his lips gently. “And I will stand by you.”
InuYasha pulled Kagome into his lap. “This has been such a strange day. Some nights after you were gone, I would run across the countryside, and then when I got tired, I would find a place to stop and imagine what would happen if you came back. Never ever did I imagine you mopping the floor.”
“Someone has to,” she said, smiling up at him. “You evidently weren’t.”
“Feh,” he said. “I barely stayed here. Now this place is turning into something I don’t want to leave.” His eyes glittered in the firelight.
“InuYasha,” she said softly. She ran her fingers along his jaw and past the point where his ears would be if he had human ones into his silver hair. The hair slid like silk over the back of her hand. The hand that had been around her waist slid up and cupped the back of her head, pulling her close as his mouth sought hers.
His kiss began tender and reverent, as he brushed his lips softly against hers, but grew in an impassioned neediness. His arms drew her in closer to him as the kiss deepened, and Kagome felt herself melting under the movement of his hands, the dance of his tongue with hers, the taste of him. He broke off the kiss, gazing deeply into her eyes. “Is this all right, Kagome?”
“What, InuYasha?” she asked. His eyes glowed a dark bronze.
“This feeling. I want you so much.” He began to plant small kisses across her jaw and worked down her neck. “I need to touch you, to taste you, to smell you.” His mouth found hers again, plundering her sweet taste. His hands made long sweeping strokes down her back. “All day long, I’ve been in a daze. I felt bad that you left everything behind for me. I feel so happy that you’re here. I’m frightened that I’ll wake up and find I’ve been dreaming. I kept thinking about last night and thinking about having you alone with me again tonight. I don’t think I’ll ever have the strength to send you away again. Is this all right?”
Her blue gray eyes gleamed as she smiled through kiss-swollen lips. “Yes, InuYasha, this is very all right.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him firmly, then unwrapped herself from his hold.
He whined a little as she stood up. “Bank the fire, InuYasha,” she said, pulling the knot on her obi free. “It’s time for bed.”